Curious Boston

A two-semester-long effort to understand the public data needs of Boston-based community organizations in order to help the City of Boston serve them.

For my senior capstone project, I collaborated with three other students and the head of the Boston Open Data department to help identify issues we may be able to help with regarding the community's use of public data. Our project focused on the City of Boston’s interactions with different community-based and advocacy organizations. As researchers partnered with the city, we worked to understand and build solutions to meet the data needs of these organizations. Through interviews with several organizations from a variety of sectors and meetings with the head of the Open Data department, we identified several pain points and inefficiencies in the flow of public data.

We found (1) inefficient use of resources in clarifying the data-related inquiries of individual organizations, (2) a lack of knowledge from the city regarding how public data is used by organizations, and (3) little-to-no connection or cooperation among organizations with similar data needs. To aid the first issue, we are developing a web-based prototype to streamline the process of data inquiries from organizations to the city. This prototype will also aid the second issue by providing a method of gathering and displaying projects from organizations that use public data. Lastly, to improve the third issue, we are developing and hosting a series of events designed to connect organizations with similar data needs, as well as provide general data education.

Due to COVID-19, my group and I were only able to run one iteration of the Curious Boston event series. However, we were still able to glean some valuable feedback and insight on how to run future events of its kind.

Although my team was very collaborative, we came from a variety of backgrounds and each focused on certain aspects of the project to play to our strengths. My main focus was on the information design of our research results, and I was responsible for designing a 6-foot-long giga map synthesizing and communicating our findings. I was also responsible for much of the Process Book documentation and the design of our data event visuals. You can find the giga map, main event graphic, a screenshot from our web prototype and the finished Process Book below.

In addition to submitting our research, documentation and work for our senior capstone, we were also approved to pitch our research and mission at Northeastern's well-known RISE event, where our group won the Data and Digital Storytelling Award for the giga map and a submitted abstract.

  • — category: information design
  • — organization: City of Boston
  • — year: 2019 - 2020
  • — for: senior capstone